Chatelaine Kitchen

Challenge #2: Get ready and make lists

Get ready for the holidays with our month-long kitchen fix. Today, start planning with lists and menu ideas for the coming party season.

December-2013-christmas-gift-list

Get a jumpstart by making lists.

Get a jumpstart on holiday parties by making lists. Pace yourself and cross off tasks as they’re completed. Think about these before you start planning:

Dietary restrictions
Be mindful of any severe allergies or restrictions that guests may have and plan your menu within reason. (i.e. include a vegetarian, nut-free or gluten-free dish.)

Tried and true recipes
– Pick favourite recipes. Now isn’t the time to try a recipe you just saw in a new cookbook. Think colours and textures – picture how they would look on the table.

– Avoid juggling. Choose one or two dishes that can be served at room temperature. Forget about fitting three pans in the oven while heating up other dishes on the stove.

– Cook now. Pre-baking some recipes can head off a kitchen crunch. Allow time to defrost or reheat on party day.

– Make a timeline. Look at prep and total times on each recipe. Can you make dessert first and have it chilling while you roast the entrée and cook the side dishes on the stove? Write out a plan down to just before the doorbell rings.

Shop with a budget
Have one grocery list for packaged and canned goods and one for fresh items. Start shopping the first list when supermarket door crasher specials start two weeks before each holiday. Load up on flour, sugar, pasta, canned tomatoes, beans or oil. Tackle the fresh list the day before the party.

Table Setting
A nice tablecloth is all you need to showcase all that delicious food you’re going to make. So check it for stains or tears. I like setting the table the day before. Labelling platters and bowls makes it easy to match cooked dishes to serving containers. A bowl of fruits or Christmas ornaments adds a nice finishing touch.

Edible gifts
Surprise guests as they leave your party with beribboned cellophane bags of edible goodies with recipe cards tucked inside. Chatelaine’s chocolate truffles and Chai gingerbread have kept smiles on guests’ faces long after they’ve left my parties. Prepping them at least two weeks ahead keeps me smiling too.

Here are a few recipe selections from our kitchen that will give you a head start on planning:

Carolyn Lim Chua, Associate Food editor
I like mixing up somewhat formal and rustic dishes together, so I recommend our rustic chic dinner menu and cranberry mincemeat pie – these two will always give you a two thumbs up from guests.

Michelle Lucas Larving, Assistant Food Editor
Cracklin’ pork roast with marsala chestnut gravy: Cracklin’ pork and a stunning gravy? You couldn’t ask for a more delicious and party-worthy meal.
Maple crème brulée: Creamy and decadent, our maple crème brulee is not only the ultimate dessert but is hands-down, my absolute favourite recipe to come out of the Chatelaine test kitchen.

Irene Ngo, Associate Food Editor
Seared duck with cherry sauce and rosti: A rich, sweet and sour cherry-wine sauce drizzled over seared duck breasts make this an impressive entertaining dish that’s also surprisingly simple to cook.
Pumpkin hand pies: This twist on the traditional pumpkin pie can be made ahead, and it’s the perfect size to take it to-go if you want to save it for later.

With all this planning done ahead of time, all you’ll need to do is enjoy the party just like everyone else. And don’t forget to share your progress with us on FacebookTwitter or Instagram using the hashtag #kitchenfix.

– Carolyn,
Associate Food editor

Follow our month-long calendar here.